One of my go-to editing tools is text-to-speech (TTS). Before I go too far, the use of this tool has been mainly when editing short stories. It can be used judiciously with longer works, and when I make it around to that, I might do an update. Until then, this is about editing a short and the valuable contribution TTS makes to my editing process. I am better than I was when I started—I think my main issue is my fingers are much slower than my creative flow. Now I let myself catch up before blasting out another couple of sentences, even when enthused by the Muse.

The biggest benefit for me is finding those persnickety constructions my brain fixes on-the-fly as I read the text slowly for the tenth time. Having your text read to you makes it possible to catch these little demons. It cannot catch everything, especially homophones. One of the newer members of our group has a homophone problem. It became painful when I was reading one of his novellas. A large number of the other problems in his writing, like conjugation and tenses, could be caught with TTS. On the other hand, they shouldn’t be a problem in the first place, but we all have a miskey every now and then.

For myself, Mac OS X has TTS builtin, but it is up to the app author to include TTS functionality. When I ‘m ready to use it, I copy my text into TextEdit and hit play, using a slightly-sped-up Alex, slip on the headphones and close my eyes and listen to every word. On occasion it allows me to find something that literally doesn’t sound right. I’ll highlight it and come back to it later.

For my friend, I did a very cursory look for free TTS systems for Windows. Windows has TTS built in, but the OS limits it to assistive services. It looked to me like you could make Windows read text to you, but the default functionality of the OS, reading every damned thing on the screen, made it untenable, and that’s before the questionable quality of the voice, but that could also be Microsoft’s text-to-phone parsing.

In my very cursory search for a solution, I came across two that were free, simple to use, and audible quality. This is not an endorsement for either product, not have I used them to any great extent. My main interests were described prior. Both had roughly the same quality output, which was better than the built-in solution, with a very subtle difference when testing homophones. Your mileage may vary.

The first product is WordTalk, an add-on for Microsoft Word (wordtalk.org.uk). The other is a standalone application from NaturalReaders.com. Of these two, I had to give the nod to Natural Readers’s offering, if only for slightly better output quality.

One area I did not take the time to explore fully was open source. I didn’t look at open source for my friend’s case as I was not familiar with the level of maintenance required for individual installations, and he doesn’t need to deal with that. Turns out there is a good selection of options out there, so explore them if you are comfortable with that sort of software.

 

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